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By John Wilson Taylor 
University of Chicago 

Until quite recently the opinion has been widely held that it was 
essentially undemocratic for the state to lay upon the individual 
citizen a peremptory demand for his services, supported, if need be, 
by force. This was of a piece with that suspicion of governmental 
power as such which has descended to all English-speaking peoples 
as a legacy from the struggle of the Commons in England against 
their autocratic monarchs, the Stuarts. But the present war has 
conclusively demonstrated that such a belief can never form part 
of the creed of a democracy which is obliged to vindicate its right 
to existence by a proof of its will and power thereto. This fact 
is abundantly illustrated by that democracy par excellence, the 
Athenian state. Aristotle in the Constitution of Athens recently 
discovered in Egypt has given us a much clearer insight into the 
military training of the young Athenian citizen than we were obliged 
to be content with previously. It may be of interest at the present 
time to recount briefly the facts given by Aristotle regarding this 
training, along with the text and a short discussion of the oath 
administered to the young men. 

At the age of eighteen the names of the young men were entered 
in the registers of the demes. They had then to submit to an 
examination before their demesmen in order to establish their 
age and the citizenship of their parents. Those who stood the 
test became ephebi. The others, if they failed in the test of age, 
were returned to the status of minors; but if they failed in the 
test of birth they might either accept the verdict or exercise their 
right of appeal to a popular court. Before it each youth defended 
his case against five accusers chosen from the deme he proposed 
to enter. If his appeal failed he was sold by the city as a slave. 
The list of those who passed the tests was finally ratified by the 



senate, which had the power to lay a fine on the members of any 
deme admitting a minor to the class of ephebi. 

After this examination and enrolment the fathers of the young 
men, meeting by tribes, chose three of their number over forty 
years of age to supervise the young men of that tribe. Of these 
three the Assembly chose one as a guardian over them, and one 
man from the whole body of citizens as a director of the ephebi 
for that year. 

These officers collected the youth and led them about the sacred 
precincts and to the Piraeus, where they were detailed to do guard 
duty, some at Munychia and others at Akte. Their time was 
occupied in learning to use the bow, javelin, and catapult while 
clad in armor. Four obols per man were set aside by the tribe 
for the support of its youth in training and a drachma for the 
guardian. All the money was handed over to the latter, who did 
the marketing for the common table. So the ephebi lived for the 
first year. 

At the beginning of the second year before a gathering of the 
people in the theater the young men gave a demonstration of their 
skill in tactics and received from the people a shield and spear. 
Then, having made a circuit of Attica, the ephebi went on guard 
for the year. At the end of that year they were full-fledged 

During these two years they were forbidden to use the courts, 
that they might not have an excuse for absenting themselves from 
their military duties. An exception was made, however, in cases 
involving estates and heiresses or priesthoods. 

Strangely enough, Aristotle in his account omits all reference 
to the time or the content of the oath of citizenship administered to 
these young men. 

Fortunately, it is possible to infer the time of the administra- 
tion of the oath from a note of Ulpian on Demosthenes xix. 303. 
He tells us that the young men took the oath in full armor. Now 
Aristotle informs us that the arms were presented before an assem- 

1 Ei» Si t4> TtfUva airrjs (' AypaiXov) of i£i6vres tls rods 4<t>$flovs £k waiSav fieri. 
iravoir\iwv &ixwov xnrcpiMxeiv S%P' 8avArov rrjs 0pe^a^i/ijs. Oratores Attici, ed. 
Didot, II, p. 637. 438, 17. 


bly of the people in the theater at the beginning of the second year 
of the period of training. The conclusion that the oath was taken 
at this time is further supported by the evidence of a vase painting 
in the Hermitage, Petrograd. 1 It represents an altar, on one side 
of which stands a young man. He is giving his right hand to the 
right hand of an elder man on the other side of the altar. The 
young man holds a shield and a spear in his left hand. Standing 
behind him a female figure, probably v'uai, holds a helmet ready to 
present to him. The painting plainly represents the young man 
taking the oath at the same time that he is being armed. We may 
therefore conclude that the oath was administered at the beginning 
of the second year of the ephebic training. 

For the content of the oath we are indebted to two main sources 
and some quotations and summaries. 2 Pollux (Qnomasticon viii. 
105) and Stobaeus {FlorUegium xliii. 48) are in substantial agree- 
ment in citing the text of the oath. Such variations as occur, 
together with any important differences in the manuscripts of the 

1 Conze, Annali dell' Inst, di con. arch., XL, 266, PI. 1. Cf. also Guard on 
"ephebi" in Daremberg el Saglio, U, 624, Fig. 2677. 

1 Lycurgus, a senior contemporary of Demosthenes, summarizes the oath in the 
Leocrates 76, saying that the ephebi swear "not to bring reproach on their hallowed 
arms and not to leave their place in the ranks, but to defend their native land and to 
hand it down to their children a better country than when they received it" (p4rt 
T&, lepa Sr\a Karawxvreiv pjJTt rV ri^iv Xehpetv, d/ivitiy Si r% rarpUt Kal d/uriyai rapa- 

Philostratus, also, in the Apollonius 4. 21 speaks of the class of ephebi, "who of 
old used to go and swear in the temple of Agraulus to take up arms and die in behalf 
of their native land" (to ^0i)/3i(cAp, o! irdXai piv &p,w<rav is 'A.ypai\ov tpOLT&yret irip 
Tjjs xarplSot urodaveiaBai Kal Sr\a (HitrecrOai). 

Plutarch (Akibiades 15. 7) gives a clause not found in the other sources. He 
states that the ephebi swore "to hold as the boundaries of Attica the land which bore 
wheat, barley, vines, figs, and olives, being thereby given to understand that they 
should make their own the cultivated and fruitful land" (Spviowri yip Spots x/n^atrfttt 
ttjs 'AtWct/s rvpolt KpiffaXs ap.ic(\ait avKats i\alais, oUeiav rottur0tu StSaonc&uevoi rty 
fj/xiepov Kal Kapto<t>6pov). 

Cicero summarizes Plutarch's source in De Re Publica iii. 9, saying, "The 
Athenians also used to swear an official oath that all the land belonged to them which 
bore the olive tree or grain" (Athenienses iurare etiam publice solebant omnem suam 
esse terrain, quae oleam frugesve ferret). This clause probably formed part of the 
oath when Athens was confident and aggressive, but was dropped sometime after the 
Peloponnesian war. 


two authors, have been indicated and discussed in the notes. The 
following is the Greek text: 

Ob Karaurxwu ra forXa t& Upa, ovS' eVy/caraXet^w rbv 
irapaffT&Trjv, oYcj> av ffroixfou, ap,vvu bi /cat inrkp lepuv /cat 
inrip bffiuv /cat ju6toj /cal juera woW&p. /cat rfv irarpida obic 
^Xacrcrco irapaficocrco, irXetco 5£ /cal apeiu Batjs av irapaSi^( 

5. /cat avvi)<r<a T&v det Kpivbvrw [tfuppdvus] ical rots Oefffwis rots 
Idpvfiivois ireurojuat /cat ofcmi'as ctp aXXous rd ir\rjdos Idpvaryrat 
biuxppbvws. /cat av rtj avaipr) robs Biffpovs fj jui) ireWtyrat, 06/c 
iwiTpeyf/a, afivvQ dk /cat poros /cat /tera iravruv. /cai ra tepa 
ret irarpta rtpijcra). "Ioropes fool "AypauXos EwdXtos "Apijs 

10. Zeis GdXXw AC£a> 'H^p-opr; 

Line 1. ra. oirAa ra Upa=o7rAa to. Upd (Stob.). 

Line 2. 6t<o av (rroixijo"o>=<ji "^ <rT<xx<i> (Pol.). 6V<j> is preferable to <5 
and for av <ttovxw u> *&■• av wopaSefw/ioi 1. 4 and av iBpwrrjrai 1. 6. 

Line 3. xnrep 6o-i<ov=6cria>v (Pol.). 

<c<u ti)v ira.Tpi8a=Tr)v imrpi&a Se (Stob.). New clauses in Athenian oaths 
are introduced by km, /cal ovk, or ovBe, never by Si. Cf. Hofmann, Z)e 
Iurandi Apud Athenienses Formttlis (Darmstadt, 1886), p. 32. 

Line 4. irAet'o) 8e (cat apuoi- irXevcro) Se /cat Karapdcra) (Pol.). irXevcro/uu is 
the regular form for the future in the early and classical periods. The antithesis 
between tXacrcra) and 7rA.«a> /cat apaat is destroyed. Lycurgus' summary (p. 497, 
n. 2) supports the reading adopted, since he makes the ephebi swear to leave 
the country better than when they received it. 

00-175= an emendation of Cobet. 00-17V (Stob.), bnroarjv (Pol.). 

Line 5. <rwrj<r<i>=evi}Korj<rm (Stob.). This is the only occurrence of the 
word noted by the lexicographers. <rwiijfu ("obey") occurs in Iliad i. 273. 

Kpivovriav— Kpaivovrw (i.e., apxovrw) Cobet in Nov. Led., p. 223. 

ip,<ppova>s Pol. omits here but writes it instead of bpxxppovws in 1. 7. The 
Parisianus prior (A) MS of Stobaeus (fourteenth century) has eixppovms. ip.<ppo- 
v(»s does not seem to make satisfactory sense construed either with Kpivovruiv 
or (rwyam. Hense, however, in his edition of Stobaeus retains it, but without 
indicating what he supposes it to mean. Blass in his edition of Lycurgus 
inserts the text of the oath in the Leocrates 77, where he omits ip.<pp6vw. 
See note on translation of passage on p. 499, below. 

Lines 6-7. ovorivas av . . . . 6/*o<£pova>s=oi!(mvas flEAAous iSpwreTai to 
irkijOos tp.<ppova>s (Pol.). 

Lines 8-9. Ta Upa. ra. ird.Tpia='upa Ta irarpia (Stob.); cf. 1. I. 

Line 10. tovto>v after $toC in Stob., who omits the names of the deities. 
For a discussion of the deities see Hofmann, pp. 35 ff. 


"I will never bring reproach upon my hallowed arms nor will 
I desert the comrade at whose side I stand, but I will defend our 
altars and our hearths, single-handed or supported by many. My 
native land I will not leave a diminished heritage but greater and 
better than when I received it. I will obey whoever is in authority 1 
and submit to the established laws and all others which the people 
shall harmoniously enact. If anyone tries to overthrow the con- 
stitution or disobeys it, I will not permit him, but will come to its 
defense single-handed or with the support of all. I will honor the 
religion of my fathers. Let the gods be my, witnesses, Agraulus, 
Enyalius, Ares, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone." 

It is to be noted that this oath is at once civil and military, or, 
better, military and civil. As the former it is a promise to fight 
bravely in defense of hearth and home and add to the country's 
territory; as the latter it is a declaration of obedience to the 
magistrates and loyalty to the institutions. It contains, further, 
a promise to honor the ancestral gods. 

If we compare this oath with the corresponding ones in most 
modern countries, including the United States of America, several 
points of difference appear. 

In the first place every Athenian was required to take the oath 
if he wished to become a citizen, whereas with us people are born 
into citizenship and only those who wish to transfer their allegiance 
from some other country are called upon to take the oath. More- 
over the ground covered by the Athenian oath requires two separate 
oaths among us: that of citizenship, which has chiefly to do with 
supporting the institutions and only indirectly with military duties; 
and the military oath, administered not to every citizen but to those 
who enter the army. The text of the former runs as follows: 

I hereby declare on oath that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure 
all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty 

1 Dumont in his Essai sur L'Ephebie Attique (Paris, 1876), I, 10, reads i/uppdnas 
and translates " J'obeirai aux ordres, que la prudence des magistrats saura me donner." 

Grasberger in Erziehung und Unterricht im klassiscken Altertum (Wurzburg, 1881), 
IH, 29, and Schoemann-Lipsius {Grieckische Alterttimer*, I, 379) omit ipuppSvws and 
translate "Ich will hSren auf die, welche jedesmal zu entscheiden haben." 

The reading eiippivm might be construed with vvrl)<ra to mean "I will cheerfully 
obey whoever is in authority," but the manuscript evidence is weak. 


and particularly to , of whom I have heretofore been a subject; that I 

will support and defend the Constitution and Laws of the United States of 
America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and that I will bear true 
faith and allegiance to the same. 

The absence in this oath of any hint of religion differentiates 
it further from the Athenian formula in which the gods are called 
upon to make the oath binding, a promise is made to honor the 
ancestral religion, and the arms presented by the people on the 
solemn occasion at the theater are called sacred. But one notable 
point of resemblance between the two, as distinguished from the 
oaths in England and most other countries, lies in the fact that 
allegiance is sworn to the constitution rather than to any person. 
This is explained, of course, by the non-monarchical character of 
the government in both cases. 

But the American military oath presents still more significant 
points of difference as compared with that part of the Athenian 
oath to which it corresponds. It deals with more details, but the 
most important aspect of it is the different attitude toward military 
service and war which it implies. It emphasizes the fact that the 
soldier is voluntarily entering upon the service, which he will leave 
in a definite number of years. The Athenian oath, on the other 
hand, assumes that the responsibility for the defense of the country 
is implied in citizenship. It is a duty on a par with that of support- 
ing the laws, and there is no more thought of being relieved from one 
than from the other. But it assumes more. It is logically an 
avowal of intended aggression against other countries. This was 
still more in evidence when the clause given by Plutarch and 
translated on page 497, note 2, above, formed part of the oath, but 
it is clear even from the formula as given by Pollux and Stobaeus. 
It naively assumes that war is the normal relation between 

The text of the military oath of the United States is as 

I, , born in in the state of , aged years and 

months, do hereby acknowledge to have voluntarily enlisted this 

day of , 19 , as a soldier in the Army of the United States of America 

for the period of seven years in active service and in the Army Reserve for the 


periods and under the conditions prescribed by law, unless sooner discharged 
by proper authority; and do also agree to accept from the United States such 
bounty, pay and rations and clothing as are or may be established by law, 1 
And I do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the 
United States of America; that I will serve them honestly and faithfully 
against all their enemies whomsoever, and that I will obey the orders of the 
president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, 
according to the rules and articles of war. 

1 When the oath is administered to those called to the colors under the recently 
enacted Selective Draft Law, the first part, ending with the words "established by 
law," is omitted.